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Feminist Criticism of “Don Quixote’s Death” in Don Quixote

Updated on May 14, 2012


One view of feminist criticism is that it is all about lack. The death of Don Quixote can be seen as a clear example of this viewpoint. Starting at his return to his village, Don Quixote is bemoaning his lack of Dulcinea. He sees her in a stolen cricket cage and a rabbit chased by dogs and hunters. He knows that these “omens” mean that he will not see her “again.” (It is interesting that he states “again” here, as he has never really seen Dulcinea since she is a product of his imagination. This language issue may just be from a faulty translation, however.) Once he has accepted that, he then sees Sancho greeted by both a wife and daughter who hold onto him, one of each side, and lead him and his donkey back to their home. This a life that Don Quixote never considered, even as he considered all the alternatives to being a knight errant. This lack of a woman in his life has never been more evident as when he gave away his imaginary love and again when he watched Sancho reunited with his real loves.

Even after seeming to realize his own lack, Don Quixote wants to engage again in “mad” activities, leading the pastoral life since the chivalric one failed him. Even in this, however, he persists in keeping his lack of women. He doesn’t fully abandon his imaginary love, declaring Dulcinea to be “…glory of these fields, ornament of these meadows, mainstay of beauty, flower of all graces…” (932). His niece and housekeeper - the only women in his life - protest his new avocation, telling him that he is too old to engage in childish behavior. He basically tells them to be quiet, for as long as he provides for them, they shouldn’t complain. He then takes to his bed, where his niece and housekeeper, “two good women” (933), pamper him and feed him.

When Don Quixote is about to die, he renounces his madness and renames himself again, reverting to his true name, Alonso Quixano the Good. As “the Good,” he creates a will. This will showers gifts on his true friends, and even on his housekeeper, who is given her full payment, plus an extra twenty ducados for a dress. This is kind of him, and gives some credence to “the Good” in his name. Then he includes his inheritance for his niece.

This is where Alonso Quixano behaves in a way that Don Quixote would have also behaved. Concerned, finally, for a true distressed damsel - the niece he has so long ignored and left in the house with the housekeeper - he includes an item in his will to assure that she will not marry another Don Quixote. He states that she will have renounced her inheritance if she chooses to marry a man who “knows anything about books of chivalry” (938). While this is a controlling move, made by a man who has, as far as we know, not controlled his niece this far, perhaps it is his realization of lack that has caused this concern. Instead of being a cruel inclusion in the will, it is Alonso realizing what Don Quixote has done, and he is trying to make it right by protecting her from future problems.

Don Quixote’s lack is not the same as Alonso the Good’s, and at the end of his life, Don Quixote appears to accept that the lack was part of his problem. By renouncing his Don Quixote persona and taking back his true identity, he has rejected his lack and become whole again, welcoming his niece back into his life and providing for her.

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